About Alistair Owens

The meandering thoughts of someone with too much time on his hands. Tending to see the obscure and irrelevant in most events I have been forced to record same by family as a means of diverting attention away from them. But I see their plan.

Food For Thought

There are some right mean people in this world. No I don’t mean them us who have money, or are a little skinny with their time. The real culprits in my sights are the beggars that give you far too much  information for free.

There is obviously the guys who float about in social media generously giving us way too much information on themselves or believe we need to hear their heartfelt opinion on any matter that takes their fancy. There is some self policing on this as can be seen by the ever growing number of dignitaries, politicians and celebrities who managed to shoot themselves in the foot with Twitter to end relationships or jobs. But even they are not the culprits I have in mind. The real beggars are those who tell you the calories in foodstuffs.

I would really like to meet the guy who revealed the number of calories in just one Hobnob chocolate biscuit. Yes that many. Apparently this means there are enough calories in one Hobnob to let you survive for at lest two weeks. Apart from ensuring Hobnobs are therefore  a constant travel companion when flying, just in case the arrival involves a desert island, this piece of information can now never be forgotten!

It seems the food suppliers insist they spill the beans on everything. The beggars who make Pringles manage to ram over 2000 calories into each tube of the things. This we  really didn’t need to know. It represents the recommended full days intake for a man. Assuming you survived the day eating normally you could blitz the intake and double your quota in one, decent sitting of the munchies. Go on admit you could easily neck a whole tube if nobody else was watching.

The  moral here is simple. Never read the contents analysis data on a pack of grub. Always pack a packet of Hobnobs and a tube of Pringles before boarding any flight – just in case. Do not rely on the flight attendants to sell you any. If they did they would be those silly little packs of four hobnobs, or 10 Pringles possible for £20. 

 

Spray Wax Lurks In The Cupboard

Having lived in Yorkshire for a while there are certain traits that must be adopted. It’s the rules. Waste and chucking stuff out requires considerable pre-scrutiny, no such decision is taken lightly. This essentially includes stuff lurking in cupboards, maybe even, as it happens, for the odd decade. 

A surprise recent find involved hair treatment. Having avoided the stuff since the days of original Brylcream – maybe that should read “classic” to follow marketing speak. It arrived in glass jars with a screw on black top. The goo was a white creamy substance containing all manner of ingredients vital to hair performance. Slapping it on produced a luxurious shine that allowed a variety of arrangements of one’s Barnet. It also left greasy marks on collars, pillow cases and on the back of your Mum’s best couch. 

Since that discovery, and the subsequent retribution I have not been near the stuff. But behold a tin of aerosol hair treatment lay in the depths of a cupboard which displayed no outward sign of deterioration. A cursory shake revealed  it was still full. A dilemma. Was it too good to waste – certainly not without scrutiny

“Spray Wax” was hardly the most enticing name, but being an apprentice Yorkshire man honour was at stake. You could hardly ditch the tin without further investigation. The wife claimed no knowledge of it‘s legacy. It was essential to delve further and with the spirit of the trail blazer I read the instructions; granted not my normal approach but needs must. 

Spray lightly from 10 inches then shuggle your fingers through your hair to give that tussled look. A further dilemma, I had no knowledge of the verb to “shuggle” or what “tussled hair” was meant to look like. With British grit summoned I gave it go. A strange sensation and about as remote from the days of Bryclream as you can get. The finished effect, as far as I was concerned, was a  strangely disheveled but somehow alluring look if I may say so. The wax element presumably being the dull slightly glued look that keeps the Barnet firmly in place. 

Anyway I have quite taken with the stuff and not just because it was free. Still not sure of the intended gender of the stuff but we are in the days of unisex so what the heck. The bright pink colour of the tin might give a clue but what the heck again. It’s been quite a success such that in an off guarded moment I spotted the stuff in Boots. “It’s on special and –  3 for 2”  the assistant advised whilst I hovered from a distance still nervous over the gender issue.  So now, being in Yorkshire I have three and a half tins of the stuff, roughly eight years of use and still none the wiser as to how it was in that cupboard. 

 

No Parking

Our life is full of signs. Do this, don’t do that, don’t ever, ever even think of doing the other. Etc. Some signs state the bleeding obvious, others give a degree of unintended ambiguity. My wasted favourite, although it may ever have existed was the sign in a park frequented by school children; “It is forbidden to throw stones at this sign”

Some signs are superfluous, some have achieved their objective. This includes the one in the picture. At some point parking presumably was an issue. The sign has clearly done its stuff!

Merry Month of May Featuring M&M’s

To be on-topic for the month of May; and for those who remember the kids TV programme featuring Pugh, Pugh, Barley Mcgrew there is now coincidentally a later rhyming version featuring in the news; Markle, Merkel, Macron and May who presumably could all live in a place called Trump town. 

Whilst we are on the subject of remakes is it me but most remakes of a classic lack the spark of the original. With all the creative talent around who could be destined to make the latest classic, why be sidetracked. Is the latest version of “Dunkirk” really better than the original. Debatable point but there will always be a comparison which could dilute the achievement of the latest film crew. A brave man is about to remake “Catch 22”. The jury will definitely be out pondering on that one. 

You Are On The Best Energy Tariff, Believe Me.

Have you noticed when dealing with the large corporations, the bigger they are the more corrupt Andy obscure they become. This is probably down to the massive salaries of the CEO and his or her eye watering bonus if they hit profit targets. We mortals are chicken feed in this equation.

Facebook and Google are currently fighting their own battles at the moment where presumed truth has become a mite twisted. In a similar vein, I’m in the midst of a delightful battle concerning the promised ease of switching energy suppliers. Just key in your name, email, post code and consumption and off you go.

Except it ain’t that easy. The big boys insist some weird questions are asked; like who is your current supplier – why do you need to know this. What tariff are you on? Again why do they need to know if it is an open and fair quote.

My latest attempt at riding this online bull refused to go any further until I fessed up with a tariff. “Let’s help you” it suggested, which is your supplier from the following list; tick, and which of the following 40 different tariffs from that supplier are you on. Confusion. Just tick one at random. If we are  to believe we are to be given a fair quote and not to be influenced by known competitors existing price – why do they need to know?

Once the enter key is hit out pops 10 quotes all mysteriously similar except some are for one year some for two. But have you got the best deal before you click to proceed? No one knows, not for a year during which your supplier choice may well jack up their prices and rended the savings void. But ‘tis all fair and square according to  OFGEN. 

I have Smart meters fitted to the gas and electricity supply. Except the bleeding things don’t speak to the new supplier. I have mark I meters whereas you need mark II to allow any new supplier to interrogate the things. Brilliant, instead of consumption being fed by SMS I am required to get on my knees, press the tiny, tiny button number 9 and read a number before it’s replaced seconds later by some other quotient whose relevance is known only to the utility companies. Get this wrong and you could pay the National debt on your next bill.

Or you could ask your new supplier for a brand new meter to replace the 6 months old one. Except the new supplier doesn’t think you are a customer so you bloody well can’t have one.

So it’s the bended knee for the foreseeable future. Oh and a chance for the Nation Energy Register of all things important to work out why my gas meter is actually registered to a farm’s cattle shed. And I can’t possibly live at my address. It doesn’t exist, they say, despite it being over 480 years old.

Retirement Has Its Place, But Not with Us

The trouble with retirement is you have too much time on your hands. Not my thoughts, but those of the offspring. You suspect your advanced knowledge, timely advice or strategic reminders, given with such aplomb and good intention are being chucked straight in the skip. “What do they think we do all day, it’s OK for them, they just wander around drinking coffee and eating cake”, etc.

The criticism goes with the job. As a  retired ‘old fart’ our job, whilst the marbles are still in firmly place is to impart infinite wisdom free of charge and honed over a lifetime. OK most of the development was pre facetube and twittertwat but there is still a vestige of good sense.

The worst part of this equation is we oldies are living longer. We are cluttering up the system with abandon, ramming off peak holidays in a sea of baby boomer silver hair and jamming doctor surgeries with endless ageing ailments. We are also selfishly spending the inheritance. Then adding insult to injury we finally drop the remaining marbles in a flood of damp patches demanding  to be rehoused somewhere else lest we end up festering in dishevelled state creating unnatural odours.  This outcome has mixed blessings; the dilemma; do the oldies move in with offspring and ruin a relationship or get chucked in a ‘rest home’ the name being a magnificent misnomer. But if the incarceration resembles “The Secret Dairy Of Hendrix Groen” you need to read it, I say – bring it on

Britain Wins Eurovision Song Contest

The Eurovision Song Contest bangs on regardless. As a TV spectacular is something special. If you ignore the zany songs, the outrageous costumes, the weird stage set and the political voting, well frankly you would be left with n’owt. 

This year will go down in history as the one with the demonstration. If you google his weird claim about the UK press you won’t find anything. But we as British will defend his right to say so. 

In the fashion of the famous episode of “Father Ted” where the priests and their appalling lyrics are selected in a desperate attempt by the Irish government to be certain to lose thereby avoiding the phenomenally high cost to stage the following year’s competition (the winner hosts the next competition ). At least we British can be proud we have missed out on this outlay once again. Well done. 

In the meantime full marks the SaDie, our contestant, who carried on singing the lyrics “Never give up” immediately after the demonstrating plonker was ejected. Brilliant, I can see this being the theme tune to all manner of future tough assignments. Starting with Brexit

Life’s Learning Should Never Cease.

There are times when you suddenly realise that education is a lifetime’s objective. Sometimes this objective, which should by now be well entrenched is overlooked. You drop your guard, believing that mankind is an all round good egg. Then some bastard metaphorically kicks you where it hurts and the learning process is revisited.

I would like to thank the one, or I suspect two women fellow passengers on a recent flight who seized the opportunity to remind me of this flaw in human nature. Whilst we as passengers were squashed up close waiting to disembark the aircraft, or again as we were rammed into the bus to ferry us to the arrivals they sized the opportunity to reach round and surreptitiously dismantled my shoulder bag and remove my wallet. 

I thank them for reminding me not to trust all people as there are a percentage of utter bastards in this world. A function, of which I clearly needed a reminder. And so to these women I trust they had a good holiday part funded by me. I also wish any offspring are blessed with a genetic mutation which renders any inclination to steal, like their mothers totally void. May they also never meet anyone like their own pick-pocketing  mothers in later life.

Silk Road Reopens

Sometimes we can sit and think; are we somehow in the audience of a vast theatre where all the players are politicians and we are witnessing make believe. None of this is real because it is so far fetched.

At the head of many vast organisations and even countries there sits a person completely out of their depth. Transfixed in the headlights of responsibility they sit comfortably on their huge egos. If you were to ask the average Joe or Joan in the street they would have a logical solution to most situations whilst the boys and girls at the top pontificate and flounder. 

In the UK we have Brexit, the USA is closing all its overseas doors to make America great again, well apart from social media. France is betwixt a desire to become the go to guys in world diplomacy and trade union crises at home. Germany is focused on who is going to replace Mrs Merkel and how to bypass its own rules on car sale ethics. 

China in the meantime has spotted a massive opportunity by not reinventing the wheel. What goes round comes round is in vogue. The Chinese chaps are focussed on rebuilding the Silk Road  on a huge scale and streamline all the trading opportunities this entails. The so called “Belt and Road” project will also reduce the current logistical timescale nightmare of moving most goods by sea.

Big problems have, however,  popped up in India and Pakistan. The Silk Road needs to cross Kashmir and both these guys claim it is their backyard. Scuffles in Kashmir are frequent and are currently proving a theory first established by Einstein. “I know not what weapons will be used in World War III, but in World War IV they will use sticks and stones.” At present, thankfully,  the Indians and Pakistani forces are throwing punches and stones at each other in Kashmir border skirmishes.  As both hold nuclear armouries this is good. Well done Einstein.

For Britain to benefit from the Silk Road we need the train line from China to nip under or over the English Channel and link up with our somewhat knackered rail infrastructure. But there is hope. If China can join up all the dots from Beijing to Dover surely we can find the next Brunel to sort the UK. 

 

Magic Porridge Pot

There are occasions when the avarice of man can lead to a misconceived outcome. 

It is a long established rule that supermarkets place special offers at the end of the isles to attract men. BOGOF (buy one get one free) fits this category like a glove. Many’s the time the thought of getting owt for nowt has loaded the trolley unnecessarily with multiple purchases that will last way beyond any use date by or replenishing cycle. Extravagance fights with financial logic and dubious wins.

With this situation in mind I entered the realms of Aladdin’s cave. Currently trading as a “German discounters” itself a strange term invented by their British competition who feel offering customers a better deal was an affront. But there on the end of their isle was a pack of own brand “Shreddies” equivalent cereal. Not only was it a special giant pack, to top it all – on special as well. Serendipity if you have been tasked with its acquisition. 

Back at base the tasting session the following morning didn’t go well. Some of the hidden ingredients  clearly added by the big boys were missing. Bland summarised the situation, but undaunted I felt this could be addressed by adding some modifying ingredients. See Bang Bang Turkey article below. This would avoid waste and the looming accusation of “told you so”. 

This quest was enhanced by the appearance of some own brand of “Shreddies” with a difference with the other German chaps. They had glued granola to their Shreddies. A packet was purchased for quality assessment. Tasted OK but had the texture of eating flavoured gravel. What if I added a packet of standard granola without bonding the molecules together. Back home pack A was duly added to pack B with a  bit of shake to disperse the ingredients. The tasting session went well but revealed further improvement required. Another pack of granola was duly whacked in. It was all starting to resemble the magic porridge pot. The overall volume of modified Shreddies had approached biblical proportions. 

We should all learn from our mistakes – it’s part of the learning process. Munching my way through this enormous amount of bleeding modified Shreddies is taking some doing, but I am trying, honestly, I am, despite the knowing looks.

Bang, Bang You’re Not Dead

Recently we had to swap things around a bit. An injury, caused by the better half tripping in a pothole and landing at pace on her left arm meant your truly stepped up to the plate.

The injury was significant but luckily the bits of her skeleton remained intact; tendons and muscles took the brunt. Whilst housework was well within the skill set, despite watching “master chef,” the culinary expertise was to say the least, embryonic.

Recipes to me are merely an outline indication; a suggestion of what to do. A free spirit does the rest. This was put to the test whilst preparing “Bang Bang Turkey.” An exotic blend of herbs and spices fused with ancient condiments in an Asian stir fry with a mere hint of curry. It said. Not sure what happened but this culinarily delectation took a wrong turn at some unknown juncture. It went, in the modern idiom, substantially “tits up.” But man’s quest to explore remains intact, for we have learnt not to go that route again and this is what learning is all about.

The outcome became apparent when my wife declared the issue lay with the recipe and not the mechanic. How diplomatic. Regretfully the truth lay elsewhere. It seemed a waste to measure out 250gms from a pack of 350gms. What are you supposed to do with the remaining 100gms ? So in it went, as did every other ingredient that fell short of a pack size. I mean surely supermarkets match ingredients with recipes, and yet  is this possibly the root cause of food waste.

By adding ingredients in pack size I reckoned I could rebalance the recipe by upping the other ingredients on a pro rata basis. I’m not daft. The net result of this thinking produced a mass of “bang bang turkey” of biblical proportions certainly being able feed a multitude.

The meal was supposedly designed for two, and I will admit took a deal of eating. I calculated the net expenditure of energy devouring the meal was marginally greater that the calorific intake. And with the observation that it was the fault of the recipe rather than the mechanic, I was marginally ahead.

Day two and a conundrum. The surviving volume indicated the potential for several further meals and thus weighed heavily against any desire to chuck it in the bin. Starving masses and all that. I promised to rework the bang bang turkey to spark it up. After adding quite a few extra ingredients in went some mayonnaise. This had nothing to do with taste – it was added as a lubricant. It overcame the previous inability to swallow. It lived up to it’s brief. The meal, being graded as a marginal improvement over the previous batch was eaten in silence and I’m absolutely certain held healing qualities as my wife promptly returned to the kitchen thereafter. It’s a miracle

Cost Effective Departures

I am currently working on a plan for the inevitable demise, at some unknown and hopefully distant point in the future, before you ask. With funeral costs being a chunky drain on resources, even though ultimately being slightly detached from the process I want a minimalist financial scheme that befits my approach to many projects. I sense many heads already nodding.

Spontaneous human combustion appears the ideal solution. Saves energy, and after the smoke has cleared, the environment. It saves trees as  little need for a coffin although come to think of it any timber involved could speed the process. Timing is crucial. If you are inside a box you may well have lost the spontaneous option.  The trick is how to invoke the process at will. The are some fine legal lines at play. If you fit some initiation device it becomes suicide. Stuffing your pockets with fire lighters in readiness moves you into the realms of  immolation. I had to check the spelling of this process. Originally I misspelt it as emoliation. My understanding of this form of disposal requires vast application of body lotion to render the body totally soft and squelchy so to be unable to sustain life, but people would notice. I also rejected the technique as being altogether a truly ponsey end. People would need to stick fingers or indeed a stick into the gloop to check for life signs. This would be unacceptable.

Desiccation  involves somewhere hot and and a total abstention from all fluids. I could sense the inevitable and and succumbing to an overwhelming desire for a beer, generally around five pm. would scupper this approach.

Falling from a great height was equally negated. As a lifelong sufferer of vertigo any voluntary intention to put vertical distance between me and Mother Earth would be abhorrent and easily spotted. Also the residue would need some form of scraping-up which would be at odds with the low cost preference .

Drowning, in some distant ocean location so as to avoid washing up inappropriately could also mean decomposition and ultimately  the process of bursting. The thought of some swimming aquatic thing then have a feast and ultimately pooing me out is definitely not an option.

Back on the drawing board it looks like spontaneously combusting is the only method that ticks all the boxes. Mediation, yoga or Pilates have so far failed miserably to reveal the ignition trigger. So has the identity of a location.  Need somwhere handy but clearly not next to a fire station and somewhere where the ash can be easily swept up or blown aside. Things to do yet.

 

 

 

 

 

Stray Underwear

Cannot abide waste. Something my Dad taught me which still holds true today. He of prisoner of war experience would cringe if anything was “left on the plate”. This philosophy also covered virtually every inanimate object.

I’m obliged to retain everything in case it comes in useful. Frequently it does, which surprises everyone, except my Dad (bless him) and me. Thus having avoided some waste and waded through some time expired beer I recently had good reason to clear out a wardrobe. I was told to.

This produced a surprising element. A suitcase borrowed some years ago by a female friend of my daughter surfaced. They were travelling around Italy as students and the small case was all that was needed. It hadn’t been used since for some years and thereby due to be recycled. Clearing out the various pockets in the case out pops a ladies thong. Now this causes confusion as well as concern. The lass is from the antipodes where thongs are what we call flip-flops. But this thong thing was ladies underwear.

This rang immmediate alarm bells, how do you explain to your better half that you have found a pair of lady’s thongs in your suitcase without one hell of a cast iron alibi. Also any telecom conversation to gather defence intel from the lass concerned was deemed not to go well either. Footwear versus undergarments, singular versus pair would do little help clarify ownership. Thus to maintain the status on “a need to know basis” the thong(s) were immediately cast deep into the dustbin, never to be recycled; they were classified as potential toxic waste – if you follow the drift. Anyway you can’t recycle thongs, surely. And we’ll leave it there. Sorry Dad

Time Expired Beer

It’s almost spring and the body craves that ancient ritual of spring cleaning. Out with the old, unused, duplicates and time expired matter from cupboards etc.

This makes sense providing you can also let go of the cherished without inventing an excuse to retain everything. This point was severely tested recently. I discovered a number of bottles and cans of beer and lager bought over the years for guests. Being a real ale fan they fell short of the essentials ingredients to hit the mark. And they come in clusters. But it proved anathema to common sense to merely chuck them out. And the recycling police insist they be empty.

A dilemma. Wasting beer must be a criminal offence somewhere in the world. Probably Australia. I am trying to convince myself the best before date is arbitrary and that if a bottle of beer has exceeded the BBE it merely indicates a minor deterioration in flavour rather than becoming chemically toxic. I will let you know how this experiment progresses.